By Eleanor Foerste, UF/IFAS Osceola County Extension
How do you know if the plant in your yard is a weed to pull or a wildflower to keep? The phrase “growing like a weed” may be a hint.
Florida landscapes and natural areas are facing a common enemy: exotic invasive species. These include weeds with pretty flowers or fruit or animals brought in as pets. We have aquatic weeds and fish invading our waterways and invasive snails, lizards, snakes, and other animals that are eating our native plants and wildlife. All exotic species are not invasive. We enjoy oranges and roses from the orient but they do not grow rapidly and take over our yards. They behave and stay where we put them.
Exotic invasive species are types of plants and animals that arrived in Florida after early explorers traveled across the state. Once they escape cultivation or care, they cause environmental and/or economic harm. They have come in on ships, in luggage, in lumber, in packaging from other counties, or released by residents when they were no longer wanted. When the invasive species arrived, they did not come with the natural enemies that prevented them from becoming a problem in their homeland. Without this natural biological control and management system of predators or diseases, the species arrived here and thrived, overtaking landscapes and natural areas and competing with native plants and animals for food, space and sunlight.
How do you know what plants to keep and what to pull? Contact UF IFAS Extension Office at Osceola Heritage Park (OHP) or call 321-697-3000 for plant identification and growing tips for Florida Friendly Landscapes including vegetables and fruits. Master Gardener volunteers and Extension faculty can help you recognize invasive plants and animals to remove and provide information on plants for special places such as shady, wet or dry areas. If you know someone who has an exotic pet they can no longer care for such as a fish, turtle, lizard, bird or snake, please let them know that letting them lose into the wild is not legal or humane. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is co-sponsoring a Pet Amnesty Day at Extension Services at OHP on Saturday, May 16 to collect unwanted pets and give them to others that can care for them. There will be a variety of educational exhibits free to the public. Contact me for more info at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Eleanor Foerste, UF/IFAS Osceola County Extension. For additional information call 321-697-3000.